High School Lab Science Requirement Update

Complete information regarding high school lab science (“D”) requirement update, with clarification for AP Computer Science, UC-issued fact sheet, and revised criteria, etc. from a UCOP email received on February 20, 2019.



Freshman Admission Laboratory Science requirement update

The laboratory science requirement (area D) has recently revised the discipline options for A-G courses submitted for UC approval. These updated science disciplines align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for California public schools.

In an effort to ensure accurate information is accessible and available to our partners in the counseling community, this special edition of the Counselors and Advisers Bulletin is dedicated to providing more detailed information on this revision.

There is a fact sheet with this information on the Downloadable Resources web page for Counselors on the UC Admission website.


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UC’s revised course criteria for area D

UC has issued updated area D course criteria, effective for the 2019-20 school year, for high school courses to be eligible for approval in the laboratory science subject area, including allowing for online labs.

As of February 1, 2019, courses submitted to UC in the laboratory science (D) subject area for the 2019‐20 school year and onwards must include a laboratory that can be classroom‐based, fully online, or a hybrid. At least 20 percent of class time will include teacher-supervised, hands-on laboratory activities that are directly related to, and support, the other class work and that involve inquiry, observation, analysis, and write-up of investigations consistent with the practices of the scientific field. Teacher supervision of labs may be synchronous or asynchronous (that is, occurring at the same time as the labs are completed or occurring separately after the labs have been completed, depending on the learning environment).


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Updated laboratory science (area D) disciplines

UC has introduced revised science discipline options for courses submitted under the laboratory science (D) subject area. These updated science disciplines align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for California public schools that many high schools across the state have been implementing.

UC’s admissions requirement for area D continues to be two years of college-preparatory laboratory science, including or integrating topics that provide fundamental knowledge in two of these three subjects: biology, chemistry, or physics.

One year of approved interdisciplinary or earth and space science coursework can meet one year of the requirement.

New: Computer Science, engineering, or applied science courses approved in area D can be used as an additional laboratory science (i.e., third year and beyond).


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AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles

The College Board maintains an A-G reference list for AP courses which shows the subject area categorization of courses as they have been submitted to UC for A-G approval. Currently, AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles are both approved for area G (college-preparatory elective). The decision to revise and resubmit AP Computer Science A and/or AP Computer Science Principles for area D rests with the College Board, as they are responsible for selecting the subject area in which they would like their computer science courses to be considered (i.e. area D or area G).

For more information about area D course criteria, please see the A-G Policy Resource Guide.


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Commonly Asked Questions on Area D revised discipline options


Question:
Does this change affect courses that have already been approved by UC on the A-G course list?

Answer:
No, the current policy revision does not apply to courses approved prior to academic year 2019-20.


Question:
Does this change affect summer school options for students who need to repeat a course?

Answer:
A-G courses are approved for an academic year, which begins in August and continues through the end of the following summer ending in July. If a student plans to repeat/remediate a deficient lab science course, the student would have until the end of July to complete the course. For 2018-19, the A-G course list is not affected by the revision. Updated course criteria for area D are effective for the 2019-20 year. If a student plans to repeat/remediate a lab science in summer 2020, the changes would be in effect at that time.


Question:
Are AP Computer Science A/AP Computer Science Principles now approved as an area D lab science courses?  Where is the A-G list that indicates the approved subject area for AP courses in Computer Science?

Answer:
No, currently these courses are approved in area G. The College Board maintains an A-G course list for AP courses. Search by program on the A-G course website. If the College Board wants their AP Computer Science A/AP Computer Science Principles to be considered in area D then they will have to submit their course(s) for area D review under the revised policy.


Question:
Will current area G computer science courses need to be resubmitted to earn an area D lab science designation?

Answer:
Yes. All course authors (not UC and in this case the College Board) are responsible for determining the specific subject area in which they would like their course(s) to be considered for A-G approval.


Question:
Will AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles BOTH be considered lab sciences in the D category? Will this be taking effect now in 2018-19 or next year in 2019-20?

Answer:
The A-G course submission period is February 1 – September 15. If the College Board chooses to submit AP Computer Science A/ AP Computer Science Principles for area D consideration during the current 2019 submission period, the approval decision would take effect for the academic year 2019-20.


Question:
Can a course be approved for both area D and area G?

Answer:
Courses can be approved in only one subject area.


Question:
Would an online publisher course (e.g., an Edgenuity Chemistry course) that includes virtual labs meet the area D requirements without the addition of an in-person wet lab if the course is on the approved A-G course list?

Answer:
Beginning with the 2019-20 academic year, lab science courses that are approved on the A-G course list can be classroom-based, fully online or hybrid. All labs must include teacher supervision, but this supervision can be either synchronous (occurring at the same time as labs are completed) or asynchronous (occurring separately after the labs have been completed).


Question:
Is UC increasing the lab science (D) subject requirement from two years to three years?

Answer:
UC’s lab science (D) subject requirement continues to be two years of lab science required; three years recommended.


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6 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Harry E. Kellerreply
March 22, 2019 at 9:06 am

“At least 20 percent of class time will include teacher-supervised, hands-on laboratory activities that are directly related to, and support, the other class work and that involve inquiry, observation, analysis, and write-up of investigations consistent with the practices of the scientific field.

“Beginning with the 2019-20 academic year, lab science courses that are approved on the A-G course list can be classroom-based, fully online or hybrid.”

These two statements appear to conflict. One refers to laboratory activities. The other refers to courses, however. One must wonder how a “fully online” course can have “hands-on laboratory activities.” Does this imply that lab kits are fine, but virtual labs are out?

For me, interpreting this apparent conflict has everything to do with the definition of “hands-on.” I would like clarification here. To expedite matters, I will provide a potential definition for review.

A hands-on laboratory activity must meet two criteria beyond those relating to its appropriateness in the course.

1. The experiments must be real and use real apparatus as well as take place in the real world. Simulations are never hands-on.

2. The measurements must be made by the students using their eyes, hands, and, most importantly, brains. Measurements made by algorithms and precalculated measurements do not meet the hands-on criteria. Data must be subject to user error. The data must depend on student actions for each and every data point individually.

This definition will allow online laboratory experiences. It also will meet the spirit of the a-g requirements. Students will do real investigations in the real world and experience science as it actually is.

The UCOP does not provide illumination in this area. Can you?

Ms. Sunreply
March 22, 2019 at 10:10 am
– In reply to: Harry E. Keller

To satisfy the “teacher-supervised, hands-on laboratory activities” requirement, you buy a lab kit and set up a wet lab in your house (or maybe a detached garage so you don’t burn the house down; buy a fire extinguisher and have a water source nearby for rinse/eyewash if you are serious about setting up a wet lab) and have interactive online sessions (two-way video calls) with the teacher during lab time (supervision). The online schools with approved courses (to gain approval, the school would have told the UCs how the wet lab component is expected to be executed) should tell you where to buy the kit or provide the kit as part of the class (may charge you materials fee); I’ve seen those kits online before and I vaguely remember they are really expensive (I think a few hundred dollars?). Given the risk involved with having a wet lab at home, I really don’t recommend it. If you are homeschooling, enrolling in California community colleges is relatively easy; there are also now a lot of brick-and-mortar alternative high schools that have UC-approved courses and allow students to only take one or two classes.

Harry E. Kellerreply
March 22, 2019 at 10:49 am
– In reply to: Ms. Sun

Thank you for responding quickly. This is the old way. It might also be the new way, but read the UCOP fact sheet (http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/counselors/files/area-d-factsheet-2019.pdf), which includes the following.

“As of February 1, 2019, courses submitted to UC in the laboratory science (D) subject area for the 2019‐20 school year and onwards must include a laboratory that can be classroom‐based, fully online, or a hybrid.”

This sentence specifically allows a LABORATORY in a course that is classroom-based, FULLY ONLINE, or a hybrid. Fully online hardly requires a lab kit. The course with these “fully online” laboratory activities must be approved by the UCOP and may be rejected if they do not agree that the activities meet their standards.

Minimal lab kits typically begin at around $100 for a minimal kit for a semester of introductory physical science to $300 and more for the more advanced courses. The cost of lab kits can be a problem for many families. Lab kits have been carefully designed to minimize hazards and are about as safe as cooking dinner. I should note that the majority of accidents happen at home and that a great many of these involve cuts and burns in the kitchen.

Virtual labs can be purchased by your school in bulk for costs that run between $5 and $20 per student per year. (Some are more costly, but schools do not buy them.) Few of them deliver a true science investigation experience and so should be rejected if used in a submission to the UCOP. When you consider that California subsidizes schools, and that, after the fixed costs of staff and physical plant, laboratories are a huge portion of the costs of running a school, finding ways to reduce the cost to the state (or improving the support of other school activities) should be a slam-dunk. The UCOP has stood steadfast against any such savings since the 1980s. The above sentence from the guidelines represents the first tiny crack in that adamantine wall. I am working with some schools that have an interest here and will use that sentence to see whether we can widen that crack just a bit.

The facts here support the use of virtual science investigations that meet the two criteria above as well as the fact-sheet statement that “at least 20 percent of class time will include teacher-supervised, hands-on laboratory activities that are directly related to, and support, the other class work and that involve inquiry, observation, analysis, and write-up of investigations consistent with the practices of the scientific field.” Note that online laboratory activities can “flip” the lab and so make better use of class time — at least for students with Internet access out of class.

Today’s technology can meet these objectives. (It was even possible in 20 years ago.)

Note that teacher supervision no longer must be synchronous, as in your description. Again, quoting from the fact sheet: “Teacher supervision of labs may be synchronous or asynchronous (that is, occurring at the same time as the labs are completed or occurring separately after the labs have been completed, depending on the learning environment).”

Returning to online laboratory activities, you can use remote robotic labs today that do have real experiments. They do not have hands-on measurement, however. I mention them merely to note that real-world experiments can be done online. Heck. NASA does it this way all of the time. As soon as you move the experiments online, you incur a delay between the experiment and the measurement. That is the way most science functions anyway.

The goals for laboratory activities can be listed as “America’s Lab Report” did 15 years ago, and they amount to understanding science rather than just learning science. This is the reason why I suggest that the experiments be real AND the measurements be hands-on rather than automated. Even with the old UCOP a-g requirements, far too many students escaped from high school without even a basic understanding of science. (Yes, the regulations failed.) Online technology can help to cure this problem.

Thank you for this forum in which I can air these views for a wide audience.

Ms. Sunreply
March 22, 2019 at 11:03 am
– In reply to: Harry E. Keller

I am risk-averse so I make very conservative suggestions where A-G requirements are concerned. If you are coming to me to ask what would qualify for laboratory science, I would suggest that you take a UC-approved lab science class. If an online high school offers a UC-approved lab science class, then it must have a mechanism to satisfy the lab aspect of the class and I would suggest that you follow it. However, UCs have, at various times, raised questions about the effectiveness of online high school classes (UCLA, in particular, seems skeptical). Therefore, my recommendation is always to try for California community college classes first (especially for core A-G requirements) and only use online high school classes as an alternative or boost (extra classes to increase AP count).

The technical definition almost doesn’t matter, because the UCs make the rules and they also make the admission decisions; they are, in essence, judge, jury, and executioner. Because of this, I lean toward traditional means of satisfying the requirements; there is no point trying to argue a case with a monstrous bureaucracy, it’s like trying to win an argument with the DMV, it’s not going to happen.

I generally take a more practical approach of trying to maneuver through the broken system we currently have, rather than trying to improve it, because I honestly don’t think I’ll live long enough to help or see educational reform happen; but I applaud your effort and I am optimistic that my students will one day achieve positive educational reform.

Harry E. Kellerreply
March 22, 2019 at 11:26 am
– In reply to: Ms. Sun

Absolutely correct. I have been at this for 20 years, and this is the first tiny crack of sunshine that I have seen. I work with schools. I hope to convince one of them to test the system. The worst that can happen is rejection and having to do the application over again without any prejudice. IMHO, it is worth the effort. With a bureaucracy, you must chip away relentlessly. You cannot use dynamite. The composition of the UCOP science committee will change with time. Eventually, if I live long enough, I hope to see the day when its members are not all old-guard types.

Students will incur extra time and costs to attend at CC for their labs. Some really aren’t able to do so. This is an awkward way to deal with a problem that should not exist. Lab kits have many problems but are often used (last resort?). We live in the Internet age. The capabilities are amazing. If NASA can do all of their science online, so can our students. We merely must mimic the processes of real lab activities, the ones that count toward understanding science. The general public misunderstands these and so do many science teachers (sadly). As a scientist, I have a different view. Learning the mechanics of pipets or of microscopes is not a part of understanding science. It is a part of the duties of a laboratory technician. Those who choose careers in science must also learn these mechanical things and can do so in their college majors.

I do not really view my approach as a reform. It’s more of a natural progression, an enhancement. Anyway, we’ll see if I can convince one of my friendly schools to try this out. Even if rejected, the dialog will be interesting.

Ms. Sunreply
March 22, 2019 at 11:56 am
– In reply to: Harry E. Keller

I have to keep the best interests of my students in mind so I typically advise them to avoid experimental approaches. What you are proposing will likely work (or even be appreciated) by some private colleges, but the UCs are too monstrous to adapt to these changes in a reasonable amount of time, so I will continue to recommend traditional means of satisfying the lab science requirement in the foreseeable future.

Talking about theoretical/practical implementation of online learning is one thing, but when I am sitting in an auditorium and looking at the face of the UCLA admissions officer (sometimes the director of admissions or assistant director of admissions) scrunching up slightly as he or she talks about the effectiveness of online classes, I have to be very skeptical and advise my students accordingly. Aspirations are great, but monstrous bureaucracies specialize in crushing dreams; my job is to help students maneuver through the existing bureaucracy and come out on top (or advise them to bypass the bureaucracy by applying to other colleges instead of the UCs).

Any Questions?